Recently, Kitgum district local government started developing the area into a game reserve and tourist attraction site.
Residents of various sub counties in Kitgum district have invaded the former Lipan hunting grounds and opened up farms despite attempts by the district to develop the area into a game reserve and tourist attraction site. They are Mucwinyi, Namukora, Orom, Madi Opei and Omia Anyima sub-counties. The over 60 square mile area used to provide hunting ground for the residents in east Acholi and beyond.
Recently, Kitgum district local government started developing the area into a game reserve and tourist attraction site. The district also consulted Karamoja overland safaris that had expressed interest in taking over the land for redevelopment. However, the district proposal may wait a little longer to be implemented because residents have started cultivating in the area. James Longa, a resident of Orom Sub County says that they cannot continue staying without land for cultivation when Lipan is empty.
He says that several residents have decided to cultivate in the former hunting ground because it is fertile. He has vowed never to leave the area even if threatened with imprisonment. Simon Okumu, another resident says that he has already planted over six acres of cassava and sorghum. Okumu says he is expecting a good harvest from his crop. Just like Konga, he is determined to stay in the area even if threatened with forceful evictions.
On Mucwinyi side, the battle is threatening to degenerate into ethnic clashes amongst members of rival clans. At the centre of the battle are residents of Okol clan, who want to control the entire area and exclude the remaining seven clans in Mucwinyi sub-county. Charles Lakwo Nyero, from Mucwinyi blames the district leadership for the messes. Nyero accuses members of Okol clan of kidnapping and injuring members from other clans who attempt to access the hunting ground.
He says when they brought the issue to the attention office of Kitgum Residents District Commissioner; they were stopped from cultivating the land. Nyero however faults the acting RDC, Dan Manano for allowing the residents of Okol to continue cultivating, while other clans have been stopped. He says if the issue is not sorted out, the rest of the clans in Mucwinyi may be forced to take the law into their hands and launch a revenge attack against the people of Okol.
//Cue in: “last month our people who…
Cue out: “…not using it using all means”
Charles Onen, the LCIII Chairperson of Namukora sub-county says the issue of the former hunting ground must be sorted out through dialogue. The chairperson says with increased population, there is need for more land.
He says since residents have started cultivating, the leadership of the neighboring sub-counties must sit together to ensure that the land is used in a fair proportion by all. Onen says the desire to turn the former hunting ground into a tourist site cannot work. He says the district is engaging investors without consulting the locals, adding that they will mobilize their people to reject the proposal.
//Cue in: “you know Palokwok or Lipan has been…”
Cue out: “the community and so this plan will not cork”//
Both Kitgum RDC and LC V chairperson Luka Nyeko, who are at the forefront of turning the area into a game reserve have not commented on the cultivation in the area. However earlier, the acting RDC said they couldn’t stop people of Okol from cultivating in the area because they had already planted crops in their gardens. He said the issue would be settled once the farmers finished harvesting their crops.